Samsung has noted its new foldable smartphones – the Galaxy Z Fold4 and Galaxy Z Flip4 – are the culmination of years of research and development, and it shows. While it was once fair to argue that folding phone technology was akin to a gimmick looking for a purpose, Samsung believes that this latest generation will mark the arrival of foldable technology into the mainstream. After what we’ve seen at Samsung’s Unpacked 2022 launch in New York, we’re inclined to agree.
“You’ve Gotta Know When to Hold ‘Em, Know When to Fold ‘Em”
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4 is an impressive step up from its predecessor, in terms of both form and function. The original Fold design was something of a gamble – boom, tish – but this design squeezes larger external and internal screens into a slimmer, more refined form factor that makes quite the impression in the flesh.
Offering more than just good looks, the Fold4’s screens have a more up-market, glassy quality to the touch that feels fitting for a premium device. While previous incarnations of the Fold offered displays with a plastic-like aesthetic that was more reminiscent of laminate than glass, the Fold4 changes that, delivering a superior tactile experience. It’s a big step up for the brand and one that Samsung is hoping will address some of the issues that plagued the long-awaited first iteration’s introduction.
Now, everyone will always asks about the crease at the centre of the screen when it comes to devices like this. While we can confirm that the crease does indeed remain – and we look forward to the day it’s gone entirely – it is less noticeable now than ever before, both in terms of sight and touch. In fact, you don’t really see it at all when looking at the screen front-on.
Plus, your view of the folding screen is now completely uninterrupted as Samsung has moved the internal camera’s lens so that it now sits under the display, meaning nothing can get in the way of whatever it is you want to look at.
Upgrades haven’t just been limited to the flashy folding screen, with the exterior panel also seeing enhancement in terms of its scale. While the closed Fold4 remains narrower than your typical smartphone, the external screen expands across the front of the device more than ever before, delivering an additional 2.7 mm of screen width without widening the device’s dimensions. While that might not sound like much, you can definitely feel the difference while using the Fold4 one-handed as it feels more like a traditional smartphone while closed than other Folds ever have.
The Fold and the Beautiful
The Fold4’s cameras have received a considerable boost since Samsung’s last round of foldables, offering a 50MP lens (four times the resolution of the Fold3), and a 30x Space Zoom lens. One major gripe we had with the last version of the Fold was the camera-use when closed. While the camera itself was more than adequate, it was certainly a challenge to see exactly what you were looking at and while the new Fold4 doesn’t exactly counter this, it does make some minor improvements in other places. Specifically, one new feature that really makes the most of the Fold4’s massive internal screen is the inclusion of a screen-in-screen picture while using the Space Zoom function that shows you the larger context of what you’re shooting, helping you avoid getting lost in super-zoom hell.
The device’s impressive real estate while unfolded is also harnessed to give you greater productivity through enhanced app management. The introduction of a taskbar at the bottom of the screen means you can easily switch from one app to the next and back again, and if you have two apps that you frequently use together, you can pair them to launch simultaneously (for example, a voice recorder and word processor might be launched together by those of us that have to record interviews and then turn type them up for you fine folk).
Samsung’s Galaxy Note devotees (of which there are many) will be pleased to hear that the Fold4 offers S-Pen functionality on the internal screen. While the writing accessory does have to be purchased separately, Samsung anticipates this will be a popular option, selling a Fold4 case that comes with a handy S-Pen holder.
“Do a Flip!”
While the Fold4 has most certainly been hogging our attention, it’s important we don’t forget about Samsung’s other folding smartphone, the more affordable Galaxy Z Flip4. While the Korean brand admits that it’s largely aimed its Flip4 marketing towards the ladies, it’s clear that Samsung is attempting to market this model as the everyman’s option. The Flip4 offers a large-screen smartphone experience in a far more compact form factor. This little dynamo will easily fit in your pocket and the Graphite colourway is nicely muted – saying that, we don’t mind the Bora Purple, Pink Gold, or (light) Blue colours at all. Clearly more robust and less tech-heavy focused, the Flip is fun at the expense of features when compared to its bigger brother, but there’s still a lot happening here.
Like the new Fold, the Flip4’s external screen has received an upgrade, both in terms of size and functionality. It’s now easier than ever to use it to check notifications and reply to texts, or to use it as a viewfinder for your camera when you just have to take a selfie.
Again, there’s been a camera upgrade, too, with the Flip4 now packing a 65 per cent brighter pixel sensor and an expanded range of camera functionality, including the “nightography” mode that we found so impressive on Samsung’s Galaxy S22 range.
Remember the Foldin’ Rule: He Who Has the Fold Makes the Rules
So, is it time to make the jump to foldables? They won’t be for everybody – their IPX8 rating means they’re water but not dust resistant, so that’s something to consider – however the Fold4 and Flip4 make a case for the tech to stay. And so they should. These devices are offering new and innovative experiences that have us feeling genuinely excited about new smartphones for the first time in quite a while, and once the kinks are sorted out, they’ll only get better,
According to Garry McGregor, vice president, mobile experience division, Samsung Electronics Australia, the Fold and Flip ranges won’t be going anywhere: “Without a doubt, foldables have more than emerged, they’ve arrived and have a bright future. The foldables market is predicted to continue its rapid growth, more than doubling in 2023 and with the fact Samsung Australia has maintained year-on-year pricing, we see this being very much the case in this market.”
It is true that despite all the improvements outlined above, Samsung is not increasing the pricing from the last generation of foldables to this one. That’s not to say they’ll be cheap. Pricing for the Galaxy Z Fold4 will come in at AUD$2,499 for the 256GB model, AUD$2,699 for the 512GB model, and AUD$2,999 for the 1TB model. The Fold4 will come in the shades Phantom Black, Graygreen (our pick of the bunch) and Beige.
As mentioned, the Flip4 offers a more accessible folding experience; a standard-finish Galaxy Z Flip4 will start at AUD$1,499 for the 128GB model, with AUD$1,649 being asked for the 256GB, and AUD$1,849 for the 512GB. Plus, a bespoke edition of the 256GB model that lets you choose from one of more than 70 colour combinations will set you back AUD$1,729.
Whether one of these devices is for you or not is impossible to tell without getting it in your hand, so if you’re looking for a smartphone upgrade we recommend doing so before you make your mind up. Whatever the case, you simply can’t deny that both of these models are inspiring pieces of engineering and design. As McGregor says, “The Galaxy Z series is the most complete foldable phone yet.”
Pre-orders for the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4 and Galaxy Z Flip4 open from August 11, with both devices going on sale on Friday September 2.
DISCLAIMER: The author of this article, Rob Edwards, was invited to attend Unpacked 2022 as a guest of Samsung.